The Battle for Biodiversity: Monsanto and Farmers Clash

By Anna Lappé
The Atlantic

Does genetic modification lead to more and better crops? Or will it destroy the foundations of our food systems?

Two weeks ago, Monsanto announced the latest genetically engineered crop it hopes to bring to market: a soybean rejiggered to resist the herbicide dicamba. The new product, says Monsanto, will aid in weed control and “deliver peace of mind for growers.”

Meanwhile, half a world away, La Via Campesina, a farmers’ movement of 150 organizations from 70 countries, had a slightly different idea about what would bring peace of mind to its millions of members: protecting biodiversity. In its statement to those gathered in Bali for the United Nations treaty on plant genetics, the organization urged treaty drafters to reevaluate the legal framework that allows seed patenting and the spread of genetically engineered crops, like those Monsanto soybeans. These genetically modified crops and the international patent regime, La Via Campesina said, block farmers’ ability to save and share seeds, threatening biodiversity and food security.

In 2004, half of global seed sales were controlled by 10 companies. Today, those companies control nearly three-quarters of sales.

Monsanto and La Via Campesina represent two distinct worldviews. According to Monsanto and other chemical and seed giants like Syngenta, BASF, and Dupont, corporate control of seeds and relaxed laws for biotech promotion spur innovation and productivity.

That may sound good, but La Via Campesina and many other groups around the world look at the real-world effects of 20 years of patent approvals and the spread of biotech crops. These critics argue that corporate power over seeds has actually undermined biodiversity and food-system resilience.

This debate is significant. Which side we listen to will largely determine just how well we can continue to feed the planet, especially as we contend with ever greater weather extremes brought on by global warming when crop resilience will be paramount.

Since the 1980 Diamond v. Chakrabarty Supreme Court decision, companies in the U.S. have been able to patent life forms, including seeds. In Europe, since 1999, nearly 1,000 patents on animals and 1,500 on plants have been approved; thousands more are pending, and not just for genetically engineered crops, but for conventional ones, too. Monsanto and Syngenta alone have filed patents for dozens of conventional vegetables, including tomatoes, sweet peppers, and melons. This means tightening control on how and where certain crops can be planted and even whether certain seed lines are continued—or exterminated.

In contrast to what we hear from Monsanto, patents actually restrict innovation, as researchers can no longer freely use patented plants in breeding experimentation. Increasing market concentration in seed ownership has also destroyed true market competition. In 2004, half of global seed sales were controlled by 10 companies. Today, those companies control nearly three-quarters of sales. This concentration has led to higher prices and shrinking choice for consumers.

Read more at The Atlantic

5 responses to “The Battle for Biodiversity: Monsanto and Farmers Clash

  1. These criminals just don’t rest – do they! It’s a sad, sad society that allows the corrupt corporations to control everything – including the food that they’re allowed to put into their mouths!

  2. http://truthyouneed.com/food_view

    Monsanto is one of the most evil organizations in the world today!!

    Did you know that over 90% of Americans are eating GMO food, which is been shown to be dangerous to your health?
    Did you know that over 70% of food in a grocery store contains food with GMO ingredients?
    Did you know that Barak Obama appointed Michael Taylor, Monsantos former chief lawyer, as the head of food and safety?

  3. Pingback: Blackwater Watch » Blog Archive » The Battle for Biodiversity: Monsanto and Farmers Clash | Food Freedom

  4. You know, looking back from the height of age, I never dreamed that the simple act of growing my own food(s) organically would eventually become, the single most radical act of anyone’s life! And now it is! PLANT – SING – GROW!

  5. It is terrifying to me how the cross-pollination of these genetically modified crops with their natural counterparts has proven impossible to prevent, and how the spread of these Frankenstein genes, widely documented, is victimizing farmers worldwide. And what has our government done about it? Allowed Monsanto to go into farmer;s fields, and if their crops have become infected, sue them for patent infringement!
    And how do we insert this foreign gene into the DNA of another species? With a 22 caliber gene gun that blasts gene coated shards of metal into the DNA , in hopes that it may, at least in some cases, attatch where it was hoped to. This process alone has many inherent dangers.
    For instance, Jeffery Smith writes that: “scientists who genetically modified yeast to increase its rate of fermentation were shocked to discover that it also increased the levels of a naturally occurring toxin by 40 to 200 times.”
    “In another botched job, a Japanese chemical manufacturer tampered with the DNA of the bacteria they used to create an amino acid called L-Tryptophan. The company wanted to dramatically increase the yields they got during the manufacturing process. What they didn’t plan on was the toxic effects their DNA tampering caused. Over 40 people died and thousands more were injured after taking the this company’s L-tryptophan product in the late 1980s.” Remember when L-tryptophan was withdrawn from the food supplement market?
    Besides the dangers from allergic from these crops, which aren’t even labeled as GMOs in the US, There is the danger that the crops will turn out to have other weaknesses appear at a later date. In India over 10,000 farmers of genetically modified crops committed suicide by drinking their pesticides when they were financially ruined after switching to GMO cotton crops which required ever higher levels of pesticides after being wiped out by new pests.
    Companies like Monsanto have even stooped to stealing crop strains carefully cross-bred by indigenous farmers for generations and patenting them! Or patenting traditional uses of plants, used for generations by indigenous farmers, such as when WR Grace patented a traditional use of Neem in 1995, and the court case lasted well over a decade. These companies go to illustrate that corporations, if they are ‘people’ as the courts claim, are a certain type of person- a sociopath.

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